As a filmmaker, I’ve always sought to depict the realities of hardship. When I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago, tragedies were a common occurrence in my neighborhood. Making semi-controversial movies seemed like a dedication to the people going through difficult times, a way of being respectful of what they were coping with.
We’re becoming less sensitive to people in hardship these days. More and more, we’re wrapped up in topics that are deemed important solely by the media, at the expense of other issues that are more critical. When you turn on a commercial newsfeed, it seems every network regurgitates the same petty political scandals, celebrity gossip, and sound-bite-short news events, all sanitized for our safety. The “expert analysis” they offer is just as canned and insubstantial. If you actually want to learn about what’s happening outside your community, you have to take the initiative to seek out a reliable source that’s unafraid to tell the truth.
That we’ve been so limited by our own news organizations may have to do with the fact that experience—and ratings— indicate that the average audience is uncomfortable with anything unfamiliar. But that attitude encourages censorship and bias in the media. The result is that nobody can be adequately educated on any subject.
The good news is that with the ease of communication we’re privileged to have today, anyone can learn about even the remotest areas and obscurest events in the world. I believe that we have not only the opportunity, but the obligation, to discover and understand the issues that concern people around the globe. Developing mutual understanding is the key to establishing peace between cultures that have been at war, or friendship between those that have been unknown to each other.
chashama Film Festival aims to accomplish that goal through the medium of film. This year, as part of the effort to understand other cultures and communities, we asked filmmakers to look at all nature of chaos in people’s personal lives, communities, and social orders, in regions around the world. The artists document the results of that chaos and the reactions of those affected by it.
Watching these films, you can understand what it’s like to be a veteran of the Iraq war, trying return to “normal” after all you’ve witnessed as a soldier; you can follow the struggle of women workers battling for their rights in a factory in Buenos Aires; you can experience what it’s like to be disabled; or live with the effects of industrial pollution; or be devastated by the economic crisis.
You’ll see hope, despair, inspiration, sorrow, gratitude, rage, and many other rises and falls. But the one characteristic all these people share—and share with you— from Tanzania to Afghanistan to India to the U.S., is their humanity. That’s perhaps the most important thing we have to learn from looking into the lives of people we’d otherwise never get to know.